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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Colin Dang

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 


Grumpy Guts or Irritable Bowel? The Indigestion Question

Any time now, and something weird happens to our eating and drinking habits. The internal consequences are collateral damage from that indulgence. But is it self-inflicted annual indigestion, or something more serious? Colin Dang has the inside track on your inner tract.

We’ve all done it and the chances are that next month, we’ll do it again. Throw off 11 months of restraint, good(ish), regular eating habits and get stuck into a week or so of rich, unfamiliar food washed down with drinks we’d never touch any other time of year.

The results can be unpleasant, and you’ll want to know whether it’s short-term, Christmas pud-based, or a symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). And at a time of year when we would put down any digestive dramas down to mulled wine and buffet food, it’s easy to overlook the potential for it to be something else.

So, let’s find out.

Gat: A Venn Diagram

Imagine indigestion as one circle and IBS another. There will be a big overlap between the two, because both conditions, for example, mean stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation that may last for days.


A dedicated charity, Guts UK, describes indigestion (or dyspepsia) as “unpleasant or even painful sensations at the top of the abdomen or in the lower part of the chest… often [after] too much to eat or drink,” Sound familiar? Indigestion is a symptom, not a disease, and most of us will experience this at some point. It will pass – often quite literally.

Sometimes, digestive stomach acid can creep up towards the throat, causing feel a burning sensation in the chest. In terms of your festive meal, this may arrive after the Queen’s speech, and before the James Bond film. This is acid reflux, or heartburn. Causes are not always around food – other lifestyle choices can be a factor, too.

  • Smoking.
  • Drinking excess alcohol.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Stooping or bending forwards.
  • Excess body weight.

The NHS describe heartburn as “a burning sensation in the middle of your chest, or an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid.” Sometimes, sufferers feel a more localised pain just below the breastbone, or a combination of all three. In extreme cases, indigestion may be accompanied by nausea, retching or vomiting. It affects one in four of UK adults.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Like indigestion, IBS isn’t a single condition, more a combination of many – and none of them are much fun. IBS is the UK’s most common digestive disorder, and BUPA claim between one and two in 10 people in the UK are thought to have it. IBS affects women slightly more than men, and it's most common for symptoms to start between the ages of 20 and 30. It's less common for IBS to start later in life.

Like indigestion, IBS is a collection of symptoms but has different triggers. They include:

  • Food poisoning or gastroenteritis.
  • Gut inflammation from bowel disease.
  • Certain medicines, particularly antibiotics.
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Historical traumatic experiences.

It’s (partly) in the mind

While indigestion is, put simply, just stomach acid in the wrong place, IBS is a “functional gastrointestinal complaint” and as such is more complicated. It is a result of an interaction between brain and bowel, sometimes known as the brain-gut connection. This helps explain why stress may trigger symptoms.

If there is a plus side to IBS, it is that it doesn’t damage the digestive tract or raise colon cancer risk. You can often control symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes. But if you have symptoms beyond indigestion, then the NHS advises seeing your GP  to rule out anything more harmful.  

How Coda can help

Our online pharmacy has what you need to control the symptoms of both indigestion and IBS. From dedicated IBS relief, through to the time honoured brands we trust to alleviate the symptoms of indigestion, including Gaviscon, Rennie and Nexium

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Coda Team 

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